Tag Archives: finale

Is HIMYM’s Mother Dead? Do We Care?

After nine seasons and countless bro tips, the final episode of the hit CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother airs March 31 — and I cannot wait for it to end. 

For so long, I loved how the show explored the relationships of five twentysomethings — Ted, his best friend Marshall, Marshall’s wife Lily, Ted’s ex-girlfriend Robin, and the legend-wait for it-dary Barney — working, living and loving in New York City. Even the structure of the show was interesting: each episode told in flashback by Ted (and narrated by Bob Saget – way to stay in the game, Bob!), as he regaled his teenage children with the story of how he met their mother.

The promise of meeting the titular Mother kept viewers coming back…for eight long years. She was finally introduced at the end of season 8, after multiple yellow umbrellas as red herrings. Sure, it wasn’t a character we’d ever seen before, but we still felt catharsis the moment actress Cristin Milioti appeared onscreen. Now that the Mother was out of the bag, what would the show runners do with her storyline?

So far, remarkably little. The entire final season takes place in the two days prior to Barney and Robin’s wedding — the longest wedding weekend ever — with only a hint of Mother and her backstory until a few weeks ago. What started as a low-level fanboy rumble morphed into a full-fledged earthquake after a cryptic scene in Episode 19, set in 2024 between Ted and the Mother, made it seem as though the Mother was dying. DOES THAT MEAN SHE’S BEEN DEAD THIS WHOLE TIME? I’d never even considered the possibility, and who would want to? Hapless Ted finally meets the woman of his dreams, and she doesn’t stick around for the long haul? But there he is in Episode 19, crying at the dinner table when the Mother foreshadows, casually, that no mom should miss her daughter’s wedding.

When I bombarded my friends with this theory, there was collective shock, anger, and disappointment. “I’ve been watching this g-d show all season only to find out the Mother is dead?!” To confirm my suspicions, I took to the Internet.

The evidence:
1. The Mother is never referred to in the present tense. In any episode. Ever.
2. Savvy viewers also speculated that this scene from season eight points to the fact that the Mother has kicked the bucket.
3. Jason Segel, who plays Marshall, speculated back in 2010 that the Mother was dead. He plays a lawyer on the show, so he obviously knows what he’s talking about.

Here’s the thing: If a title character dies on a TV show, and we barely know her, does anyone care? I know the whole conceit of HIMYM is for Ted to actually meet the Mother, but to be honest, it’s never been  part of the show that I enjoyed. Ted is my least favorite character. I’ve watched and loved the show for the friendships. The alcohol-glazed photos of the opening credits sum it up: five friends, in a bar, having a blast together. Over the years, there’s been a goat fight, the discovery of Robin’s prior life as a teen Canadian pop singer, and the greatest running joke on any sitcom (I said it): the Slap bet. Bring on the sob story, HIMYM, I don’t care. I’ll be watching for that last slap.

The penultimate episode of How I Met Your Mother airs tonight at 8pm on CBS. The series finale airs March 31.

‘True Detective’ Finale Recap: Enter the Lawnmower Man

If time is a flat circle, it shouldn’t matter when we watch the finale of HBO’s True Detective. But enough viewers tried to log on to HBO Go on Sunday night that it crashed the system, prompting a mild panic among subscribers and the rogue adult children borrowing their parents’ passwords.

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 12.02.23 PM
Now that the pinwheel of death has stopped spinning on our screen, and many of the 11 million weekly viewers have followed True Detective through to the end, let’s get to Carcosa.

Scene 1. “I haven’t left my mark in a while.” No surprises here: The finale sets up a showdown with the “Obvious Killer,” who by now has as many aliases as victims. We know him as the Lawnmower Man, the tall man, the man with the scars, the green-eared spaghetti monster, and a possible Tuttle descendent.  We see him in his ramshackle bayou home, standing shirtless — with the cult’s spiral icon burned into his back — over a body. “Daddy,” he says. Turns out the Lawnmower Man is also Errol Childress, son of former sheriff Ted Childress, who covered up the true nature of the Dora Lange murder in 1995. And “Daddy” has been a corpse tied to a bed for who knows how long.

The terror builds as we see inside Errol’s palace of pain, which could double as a Hoarders set. Of course the home of an incredibly creepy pedophilic serial killer is full of dolls. And of course Errol would speak with a fake British accent and take a family member as his lover. The green-eared spaghetti monster plays by his own rules. Errol crows “I haven’t left my mark in a while” as he pulls his half-sister onto his lap. He asks about “their grandfather” as he starts to pleasure her. It only gets worse from here.

 “L’chiam, fatass.” Meanwhile, back on the fishing boat, Marty (Woody Harrelson) and Rust (Matthew McConaughey) question their former colleague, Sheriff Steve Geraci, at gunpoint. Rust has an ace in his pocket — the VHS tape documenting the cult’s molestation of 10-year-old Marie Fontenot — which gets Geraci to talk. (Babble, actually.) Geraci admits that the missing person’s report he filed on Marie back in the 1990s was altered by then-sheriff Ted Childress, so the trail went cold and he never did anything to fix it. “I was following the chain of command.” Rust doesn’t like that.

They take Geraci off the boat and warn him that a sniper will take action if Geraci does anything else to get in Rust and Marty’s way. To prove their point, shots fly out from the the banks of the bayou and tattoo Geraci’s Maserati. With two of the finest parting words in television — Rust: “L’chaim, fatass” — Rust and Marty pull away.

“Everyone has a choice.” It’s been a decade since Rust and Marty rode together as partners, and a lot has changed — beyond Rust’s hair length — since their first car conversation. Though in true macho Marty fashion, the thing that’s been eating him up since the partners split is whether or not Rust let Marty win their big fight. “It seems pretty damn arrogant to hold back in a fight with me,” Marty says, blustering. “You think you could have put me down?” Rust (I imagine) resists the eyeroll and replies, “You were so damn mad, Marty,” about Maggie, about life. And then something shifts. Marty actually shows some emotional awareness. He admits that Maggie took the blame for the affair with Rust that broke everyone up. He almost seems to forgive Rust. “Everyone has a choice,” Rust says, a recurring theme that ties things up neatly here. We can choose to be good, to be bad, to be shades of each. We can fix our mistakes. Redemption is possible, even for the “bad men.”

“You’re speaking in riddles to me, white man.” This scene between the younger black cop and Marty is kind of a throwaway, other than the cop’s amazing line. I would argue that the quote reinforces the cop’s continued ignorance, but to be honest, at this point Marty is kind of speaking in riddles. In a prior scene’s giant plot leap, Rust and Marty connect the green paint job on a house to the green ears on the spaghetti monster (sure, why not?); find the former owner of the house, who tells them the name of the painters (Childress and Sons, aha!). They then Google the Childress and Sons business license (if only they had the internet in 1995) and find an address for Errol Childress. The game’s afoot!

“This is Carcosa.” This is where shit gets terrifying. Rust and Marty pull up to Errol’s palace of pain, where Rust can practically smell the decades of fear and misery. Marty knocks on the door of the main house, while Rust stalks toward the shack where Daddy’s dead and Errol hides. Marty encounters the half-sister, who screams that Errol is “the worst of all.” Meanwhile, Rust peers around the shack, where he sees cult drawings graffitied onto the facade — and Errol, standing still, across the field. “Stop where you are!” Rust yells. To which Errol replies, coldly, menacingly: “No.” The chase begins.

Rust is on Errol’s heels while Marty trails behind. Errol leads Rust into a series of tunnels and chambers that look like remnants of a Roman temple. Errol taunts from within, calling out “This is Carcosa” as Rust passes by mummified remains of victims and piles of little girls’ dresses and children’s shoes. Ugh. Rust reaches what looks like the Yellow King’s throne room, complete with a sort-of Bone Throne with skulls as adornment. Rust looks up through the ceiling’s circular hole — an oculus dei, or eye of God in some churches — and has one of his hallucinations, seeming to see a tornado-shaped vortex in the sky. It’s the kind of thing that, you know, may distract you so you don’t notice the villain about to stab you in the stomach.

Errol plunges a knife into Rust’s gut and hoists him into the air. But Rust is enough of a badass to manage to head butt (I repeat: head butt) Errol multiple times and drop to the ground. Still, things look bad. Marty arrives and gets a hammer (or tomahawk?) to the chest, courtesy of Errol, while Rust bleeds out. But this isn’t some Greek tragedy — it’s cable television. So just when Marty looks like he’s done and Rust is heading to the great big tornado vortex in the sky, Rust manages to aim a gunshot to Errol’s head. Ding dong, the Yellow King is dead.

“It’s one story, the oldest: light versus dark.” Fast forward: Police reinforcements arrive at Errol’s place and Marty and Rust are in the hospital, with Rust in a (brief) coma. We learn that decades’ worth of missing persons are buried in Errol’s front yard, but we never find out more about the mythology of the cult. Instead, it all boils down to old-fashioned power plays by the Tuttle/Childress family and serial insanity. The darkness isn’t complicated, and I actually found that satisfying.

Rust and Marty both survive — which shocked me, given that neither character is slated to return next season — and the season closes with Marty pushing Rust in a wheelchair to get some air outside the hospital. They stare at the starry night sky and Rust muses on his near-death experience and the futility of man. Just like old times. “It’s one story, the oldest: light versus dark,” he says.

“It appears to me the dark has a lot more territory,” Marty says, looking up.

We circle back to the idea of light and dark, good men and bad men, and it reinforces that this show wasn’t really about clues and mythologies. It was about two men and all their flaws. And just as Marty starts to show some compassion and Rust finds some closure for the death of his daughter, we see signs of hope, of redemption. As Rust would say, “The light is winning.”

Image courtesy Jim Bridges/HBO.

‘True Detective’ Finale: The Big Twist or the Obvious Killer?

Season one of HBO’s bayou crime drama True Detective draws to a close this Sunday, leaving the series in a unique position: It’s been renewed for a second season, but its stars — Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey — only ever committed to eight episodes. The show goes on with two new detectives and a new mystery to solve, says series creator Nic Pizzolatto, which means that questions about a Yellow King and a murderous cult will (hopefully) be answered this weekend.

Not since the days of Lost‘s smoke monster and four-toed statue have we speculated this much about the conclusion of a TV series. In the spirit of Marty and Rust’s car conversations (albeit with more exclamation marks), two Culture Binge editors consider what’s in store for True Detective.

Kadi Hughes: Are you all caught up?

Laura Dannen Redman: I am, finally. The man with the scars…drives a lawnmower.

KH:  He is also the spaghetti monster.

LDR: It’s like a Scooby Doo prelude. Never suspect the gardener/housekeeper/butler.

KH: Old Man Withers! From the Amusement Park!

LDR: So clear something up for me. What exactly is Carcosa?

KH: Carcosa is a place — it’s the place that the rich men go, and perform the rituals with the hoods and the whole bizarro ceremonies.

LDR: Right, the masks and the chanting…

KH: The snuff film! The photos! The children! The evil Tuttles!
How awesome was it to see Rust and Marty back together again?

LDR: Amazing. Marty has that one line that sums it up, when he tells Rust: “Father Time has his way with us all… Looks like you must have pissed him off.”

KH: I always forget how funny Woody Harrelson is. He has great timing and delivery. So…what do we know for sure? And what do we predict is going to go down in the finale?

LDR: We know the Tuttles are evil. And the Tuttles seem to own most of the Louisiana bayou.

KH: The Lawnmower Man is a Tuttle half-brother and the man with the scars. Plus the Tuttles have been around “for a long, long time.”

LDR: Was the Lawnmower Man the same one from earlier in the season?

KH: Yes, he was. How creepy was that end shot/pan out? The lawnmower circle and that silent barge?

LDR: It was like an alien/occult circle he was mowing into the grass, like a scene from Signs. So if the Tuttles have been around for a long, long time, then conceivably they’ve been behind many missing children for…decades. Which brings us to…the video. I also don’t know why I keep using the … (dot dot dot). So much suspense that needs to be conveyed.

KH: The video. Props to Woody for his reaction.

LDR: Seemed like an authentic reaction, an Everyman or Every Father response to seeing the rape of a young girl.

KH: I also like how, thematically, it came back to one of my favorite lines in the series: “We’re bad men. We’re the bad men who keep the other bad men from the door.” I’m misquoting slightly but it was early-days Rust philosophy in the car, and chilling!

LDR: It speaks to the best part of the whole show: the complex characters of Rust and Marty.

KH: Marty and Rust are clearly broken and with faults, but maybe their ‘badness’ is what makes it possible for them to stop the Tuttles. Perhaps ‘better’ men wouldn’t be able to do so, because they wouldn’t see it, or understand it, or get so obsessed with it.

LDR: As Rust shows, you need to be as obsessed as the villains you seek out. Walk their walk. I also like how you could conceivably suspect Rust or Marty of murder. The show creator said in an interview that by episode 7, it should be clear that neither did it.

KH: I agree with that. Although for most of the season I was CONVINCED Marty was evil. While we are talking about complexity, the show has gotten a lot of flack recently about the female characters (ex. Emily Nussbaum in The New Yorker) — arguing that they aren’t complex, that it’s “shallow deep talk” and male fantasies, etc. I’m a bit torn on it.

LDR: I read a good defense by show creator Nic Pizzolatto in EW that it’s such a strict point-of-view show that to deviate much from it would seem peripheral. But that Marty’s wife Maggie is the most emotionally astute character on the show.

KH: I agree with that and I hope the rumor about season 2 having two female detectives is true. Because Michelle Monaghan [who plays Maggie] is KILLING it.

LDR: Oh man, killing it.

KH: Also, it has been established, multiple times, that these narrators are not reliable. So that girl Marty ‘saves’ from the bunny ranch and then sleeps with later? When she is in front of the mirror, it’s pure male fantasy. Probably because it is! That is what Marty is thinking!

LDR: It’s an Anthony Weiner sext. It’s straight out of Hustler. Which might be the only reading material Marty has.

KH: I have noticed a trend with female leads in these types of shows. They are often so understated that people don’t realize how amazing they are. See: Robin Wright in House of Cards.

LDR: Remember the episode when Rust meets Marty’s family? I loved how Maggie basically tapped into Rust’s psyche before dinner was served. She had him sharing more than Marty got in months of car conversations.

KH: Michelle is just a lot less flashy. I think her character is a manipulation queen, between that and the sex trap. But she is also clearly a good mother and a woman with an internal struggle. The sex trap was brutal. She knows that will destroy Marty.

LDR: It raises her up to “bad woman” status. So how do we think this will all play out in the finale? How do they track down the Lawnmower Man? They must get some key information from the sheriff they’re holding hostage on the boat.

KH: Agreed. He gives them a clue and I think we escalate quickly. I think they go to “Carcosa.”

LDR: The preview of the finale showed them guns out, reinforcements on the way.

KH: Does everyone die?

LDR: I kind of think so…

KH: I think at least one of them will, right?

LDR: Why else would Maggie say this in the penultimate episode? “Marty, are you saying goodbye?”

KH: What about the two detectives grilling Rust and Marty? How are they involved? Do they bring them into the fold?

LDR: They probably help invade Carcosa. Rust and Marty die knowing they’ve been vindicated, but the two cops take credit for solving the case. Bleah, eh? Ha, I meant to say “bleak,” but “bleah” works, too.

KH: Or will there be a darker twist?

LDR: What do you think?

KH: The creator said that there will be no supernatural elements. It’s pretty clear Rust is far gone, so him dying would be a bit of a mercy killing. I think we might see Maggie’s father again, and find out he did some sick shit to his granddaughter. I would like to know more about the mythology of the cult. Why the antlers? Why the human sacrifice?

LDR: Was it a Tuttle family tradition, passed down for generations?

KH: Is it a bit of voodoo?

LDR: Maybe the dreamcatcher sculptures are voodoo objects. Who is the Yellow King?

KH: How confident are you that our questions will be answered?

LDR: WHO IS THE YELLOW KING? Not very.

[Said at the same time] LDR: Like with Lost, origin stories don’t necessarily get tied up.
KH: Because by the time we got to the end of Lost, I knew there was no way it would all be accounted for.

KH: Though I think that True Detective will tie most things up. The structure of the series dictates that a bit. Also people (ie. me) were rabid at the end of Lost. I had invested so much time and emotion into all of these clues and mythologies and theories, and most of them were just bullshit. If True Detective does that to me, I am pulling a Rust and heading to Alaska. Even though I, like him, do not like the cold.

LDR: And they were mostly bullshit because — in my humble opinion — there was a writers’ strike halfway through the series. How do you write for a show that could end tomorrow, three months from now, or three years from now? True Detective does have the added benefit of one season and boundaries for the narrative. By the way, don’t go to Alaska. You’re a vegetarian. You’ll starve.

LDR: So…who is the yellow king? I kind of think he’s part of the mythology — the spiritual chief.

KH: Top three guesses:
1. Governor Tuttle.
2. An unknown we meet in the last episode.
3. The viewer.

LDR: The viewer.

KH: Yeah, I said it.

LDR: Meta.

KH: POST MODERNITY. I rabbit holed down an iO9 comment thread one day. This one guy had a great theory on how meta the show was. “Time is a flat circle” repeating over and over again = DVD. Rust becomes aware that he is a character on a show and that we are The Yellow King because we want more. People keep dying, bad things keep happening, to entertain us.

LDR: So they blow up the fourth wall.

KH: While I don’t really think that is what is going on. If there is a Neverending Story moment when Rust turns to the camera and calls out for “Bastian” I will lose. my. shit.

LDR: Ha!

KH:  Okay, who are your three predictions for The Yellow King?

LDR: 1. The god of the cult. Not actually a human, but someone the group pays homage to. 2. Governor Tuttle. 3. The Lawnmower Man. Occam’s Razor: the simplest answer is usually the right one. Though the show creator is a pretty sharp guy and now I’m liking your fourth-wall-gone theory. It goes along with the philosopher-king style of the show.

KH: There was a great retweet from The Millions on an article posted a year ago about how all detective fiction is the same — or at least that there are only a set number of outcomes. It’s completely applicable to True Detective, but I still am going to watch and then be emotionally adrift when it is done.

LDR: Great article. So essentially, we’re waiting for The Big Twist or The Obvious Killer. And then we cry.

KH: Exactly.

Any other conspiracy theories out there? Join the conversation in the comments section below. True Detective’s season one finale airs Sunday at 10pm on HBO.